The St. Louis Cardinals decided not to venture outside the organization to upgrade their rotation before baseball’s non-waiver trading deadline, but the pitching staff has turned it up a notch with a fantastic August.
They’re now hoping for an added boost from within.
St. Louis (71-58) was counting on Wainwright (6-3, 3.14 ERA) to head a rotation that was missing injured veterans Chris Carpenter and Mark Mulder, and through two months of the season, Wainwright was delivering. He had one of the NL’s 10 lowest ERAs through his first 13 starts, and had lasted at least seven innings in nine of those.
But Wainwright suffered a ruptured tendon in the middle finger of his pitching hand on June 7, and hasn’t made a start since.
While it would seem like an obvious call to place one of the NL’s most promising young starters back in the rotation, the Cardinals had been debating whether to put the converted closer back in that role to help their shaky bullpen.
St. Louis’ rotation has been excellent in August, going 9-6 with a 3.12 ERA that is among the best in baseball in that stretch. The bullpen has fared well this month also, but is seen as a bigger question mark with Jason Isringhausen likely out for the season and the club using a closer-by-committee approach.
Manager Tony La Russa isn’t ready to say Wainwright will remain in the rotation.
“There has been no definite determination of what Adam’s role is, except that he’s due to pitch Friday,” La Russa told the team’s official Web site. “We’ll … get him ready to go, and then see where he fits in the best.”
Wainwright’s role may depend on the health of Carpenter, who has made three starts since late July but is currently on the DL with a right shoulder strain.
“Friday is all I can really think about,” Wainwright said. “I expect to go out there and compete and do very well. I’m snapping the ball as hard or harder than I have all year.”
Wainwright, who was drafted in the first round by Atlanta (56-72) in 2000 but never pitched there, has fared well in his two career starts against the Braves, going 2-0 with a 1.29 ERA.
The Cardinals haven’t had many problems scoring runs lately, and are coming off an 11-2 win over Pittsburgh on Wednesday, but Atlanta has had plenty of offensive issues since trading Mark Teixeira. The Braves have scored 33 runs while losing 10 of their last 11 games, including a 5-4 loss to the New York Mets on Thursday.
Their pitching hasn’t fared much better, allowing 71 runs during the team’s slide. Atlanta will send rookie Charlie Morton (3-7, 5.95) to the mound in the series opener, and he’ll be looking for just his second win since July 12.
Morton rebounded from a bad start to pitch well on Sunday, giving up three runs over six innings to San Francisco, but lost 3-1.
“I wanted to come off a bad outing and get a good win,” Morton said. “I feel like I did, but I didn’t.”
He’ll hope to pitch far better than he did in his first start against the Cardinals, which was his worst of the season. Morton lasted 3 2-3 innings on July 28, yielding eight runs in a 12-3 loss.
The Cardinals took three of four at Turner Field from July 28-31.